Do People Grasp Russian Authoritarian Thinking?

 

Buried deep in this comment thread was this exchange: One of our members, BalticSnowTiger—who is, I suspect, in the Baltics, but this is the Internet, so who knows–proposed:

Unless people in the West and far apart finally invest a moment to understand Russian authoritarian thinking, behaviour, strategy and the effect deterrence has all of this is moot.

One of our members, AIG–who is, I suspect, in America, but this is the Internet, so who knows–replied:

People do understand this.

AIG, I don’t want to simplify or make a straw man out of your argument. I suggest our readers carefully study that thread, and judge both comments in context. But my response is this:  Let’s try to make empirical, testable statements. I fear that the majority of the adult population–in most Western countries—has nothing like a sufficient understanding of Russian authoritarian thinking, behavior, and strategy.

Specifically, I don’t think you’d find, if you conducted a well-controlled poll, that most people in the West would instantly appreciate the following references, or have any clue what they mean:

  • The 1999 apartment bombings;
  • The Second Chechen War;
  • The murder of Litvinenko;
  • Abkhazia;
  • South Ossetia;
  • Nagorno-Karabakh;
  • Transnistria;
  • “One-party system, characterized by censorship, with a puppet parliament, no independent judiciary, and notable for its hypertrophied special services;”
  • “Siloviki structures in governance, clericalism and statism in ideology;”
  • “The rehabilitation of the Soviet past;”
  • “A state-sponsored global PR effort, in which  RT–and “Sputnik news” are Pravda. Rebranded, but otherwise the same;”
  • “Intensified official lobbying activities in the US through PR companies like Hannaford Enterprises;”
  • “A Kremlin pumping more money than you can imagine into various forms of public diplomacy: new media ventures to target international audiences; conferences to seduce Western opinion-makers; and NGOs in Western capitals dedicated to analyzing every real failing of Western democracy;”
  • “Former KGB officers running Russia. The FSB is just the KGB. No one really lost his job.” (Test that one in a poll, see how many know that. Bet you not a lot);
  • “The FSB monitors the Russian population electronically, controls the political process, creates front enterprises, and runs its own prisons;”
  • FSB: How many in the West even know what that is? A majority, you think? Doubt it;
  • “Putin’s Russia is dominated by former and active-duty intelligence offiicers.” Think the majority grasp that?
  • “Russia: an assassination-happy nightmare where detention, interrogation, and torture–right from the KGB handbook, no translation necessary–are used to silence journalists and businessmen who annoy Putin.” Let’s poll that statement. Think everyone knows that?
  • “Chekists.” How many Americans know that word? Or understand how it applies, in 2015?
  • “The export-appeal of Putinism as an ideology.” Familiar phrase?
  • “Former Soviet republics in Azerbaijan, Belarus and central Asia follow Moscow’s lead, as do Venezuela and many African and Asian countries.” Think people grasp that?
  • “The new geopolitical trend: undemocratic, oligarchic and corrupt national elites put up a nice facade of democracy with parliamentary trappings and a pretence of pluralism–a trick they learned from Putin.” Think people get that?
  • “Eastern Europe, where Kremlin-friendly politicians get all the campaign funds they need.” Does everyone know that?
  • “Otherwise sensible Americans finding Marine LePen sensible.”

I could go on, and on, and on. But if you show me a single, well-constructed poll indicating that “People understand this” in America–no less “the West”–I’ll gladly say, “Well, I was wrong.”

I will be so relieved to be wrong that I will weep with relief to be on the losing side of an argument. I want to believe you so badly that my pride means nothing–zero–to me on this one. Please, please, tell me I’m wrong.

If anyone doubts where I really am, I’ll grab a copy of tomorrow’s newspaper in Paris and take a photo of myself with it. But I could, as you know, manipulate that quickly, with photoshop. If anyone can think of a better and more convincing test, I am happy to do it. I don’t really care if it involves some kind of violation of my privacy.

I am an American citizen, in Paris. Terrorist attacks in Paris are rare. They do not terrify me. They do not make me want to flee. Seeing Sputnik news, in Paris, terrifies me–and makes me want to flee. But I don’t know where to run.

My passport says, “America.” That makes things clear: my first responsibility is to do everything in my power to get Americans to grasp this, no matter where I am. And to explain that they need to grasp this fast–and get the rest of the world to grasp it, too.

There are 177 comments.

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  1. AIG Inactive
    AIG
    @AIG

    Herbert E. Meyer:I’m with Claire on this one: We have a serious problem with Russia that isn’t getting nearly the attention it deserves. Vladimir Putin has put Russia on a course that will either lead to war in Europe — or to surrender.

    May I respectfully disagree with AIG about how we won the Cold War since I was — so to speak — standing there when we did it. Yes, we did crush them economically. But we also waged proxy war against the Soviet Union — not only in Afghanistan but in places like Mozambique, Angola, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. And we worked hard to bring along our European allies, who were too frightened to help us. It was the totally of everything we did that, in effect, exhausted the Soviet Union.

    Today our problem isn’t “Russia” so much as it’s “Russia Led by Putin”. As I wrote last year:

    http://www.americanthinker.com/2014/08/how_to_solve_the_putin_problem.html

    if we can get Putin’s rear end out of the Kremlin — feet first would be fine with me — it’s unlikely his successor would be as aggressive.

    Those of you who’ve written that the economic pressure we’re putting now on Russia is working are, in fact, correct. But we need to vastly increase this pressure, and we need to do it now. So I’m also in sync with those of you who’ve suggested that we’d accomplish more by canceling the oligarchs’ credit cards and freezing their bank accounts than by sending tanks to Ukraine.

    We can argue all day about the details, but let’s not lose sight of Claire’s point that this is something that deserves far more attention than it’s getting.

    So I said earlier, all the criticisms can be boiled down to: “do more”.

    Ok. But that’s not much of a criticism now is it? That can be said about anyone, at anytime, in any circumstance.

    Do more is the default criticism when one knows one agrees with what is being done, but one wants to appear like a critic. So…”yeah I agree, but we need to do more”.

    • #61
  2. AIG Inactive
    AIG
    @AIG

    jetstream:

    So we have moved from strikes to sorties? Is it your claim that U.S. warplanes are making 70 strikes per day against ISIS? Can you provide a credible reference?

    You can google it.

    Of course, the real question with ISIS is…what the hell is there to strike?

    I’m not certain of how the arithmetic is tabulated, but I think a single MK-82 counts as a strike.

    No.

    The point about Russia’s economy is that the U.S. private sector is inflicting the majority of the damage to the Russian economy inspite of Obama’s best efforts to constrain the U.S. private sector.

    Strange how oil prices seem to collapse every-time Russian invades a country. Purse coincidence, I’m sure.

    • #62
  3. AIG Inactive
    AIG
    @AIG

    BalticSnowTiger:

    We both remain in agreement in regard to the necessary long-term economic approach. But, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, without visible deterrence and willingness to commit troops (please refer to the Partnership for Peace notion involving a variety of NATO country contingents on a rotating/segmented/specialised basis in the other thread) we are handing the gains made and thus the freedom of a number of democracies to the Kremlin. However, if we want to have the hearts and minds of people across Central & Eastern Europe with us, eradicate the already growing sense of foreboding and trigger an upswell of democratic support for conservative parties we have to show actual force now.

    1) I don’t see the loss of any democracy or any gains to the Kremlin. Ukraine wasn’t ours to be won or lost. Ukraine was already the Kremlin’s.

    2) We have to be honest with ourselves!! For the past 15 years of NATO training with East European troops…we have treated them as auxiliary peacekeepers for our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    We’ve trained them to death on how to deal with a riot, and how to patrol an Afghan village.

    And that’s because that’s all we were focused on for 15 years. And that’s all we trained them for, and all we equipped them for.

    And then we saw the Georgian Army brushed aside in 1 week by the Russians, because all their “US trained forces” knew how to do was fight a crowd of protesters, not an enemy army.

    So, lets be honest with ourselves: we gave them s**t for 15 years. We treated them like all they were was auxiliary peace keepers for us, but we didn’t consider for a moment their defense needs.

    Until now. At least.

    And the same goes for our own military too. For 15 years all we focused on was Iraq and Afghanistan, and we forgot that there’s actual armies out there that we need to be trained to handle.

    Which is why, if we’re honest with ourselves, we can see how we got ourselves into this mess.

    • #63
  4. AIG Inactive
    AIG
    @AIG

    15 years we had our eyes off the ball. 15 years of high oil prices, which we caused, which allowed Putin to gain money to become aggressive. Trillions of dollars we threw down the drain buying MRAPs and training for patrolling Iraqi cities, instead of spending that money on more important things.

    And we say “why don’t our allies trust us now?” Well, we did lie when going into Iraq. We did deceive them. We did treat them as auxiliary peace keepers, instead of considering the greater picture.

    And now we have nothing to show for it, but we’re too proud to admit that…we were wrong…we did this to ourselves…and now we’re looking for convenient excuses to blame it on Obama.

    The time has come for us to admit this, and to say “it was a bad idea. It was a waste of time. It was a monumental waste of resources and training hours and men”.

    And deep down, we all know this to be the case. And we should have learned enough by now to admit that Bush’s period was one of the worst when it comes to foreign policy because we took our eyes of what really mattered and instead chose to pursue a fool’s errand.

    • #64
  5. user_138833 Inactive
    user_138833
    @starnescl

    AIG:15 years we had our eyes off the ball. 15 years of high oil prices, which we caused, which allowed Putin to gain money to become aggressive. Trillions of dollars we threw down the drain buying MRAPs and training for patrolling Iraqi cities, instead of spending that money on more important things.

    And we say “why don’t our allies trust us now?” Well, we did lie when going into Iraq. We did deceive them. We did treat them as auxiliary peace keepers, instead of considering the greater picture.

    And now we have nothing to show for it, but we’re too proud to admit that…we were wrong…we did this to ourselves…and now we’re looking for convenient excuses to blame it on Obama.

    The time has come for us to admit this, and to say “it was a bad idea. It was a waste of time. It was a monumental waste of resources and training hours and men”.

    And deep down, we all know this to be the case. And we should have learned enough by now to admit that Bush’s period was one of the worst when it comes to foreign policy because we took our eyes of what really mattered and instead chose to pursue a fool’s errand.

    No.  Or, CoC compliant: No thank you.

    • #65
  6. blank generation member Inactive
    blank generation member
    @blankgenerationmember

    To your question at the top:

    No.

    I do think some on this thread would know how to implement an authoritarian takeover and how much it would cost.  All sides are equal in a debate, as long as someone wins!

    • #66
  7. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Claire Berlinski:

    AIG:

    “conservatives” are just as willing, capable and susceptible to invent a fantasy world to fit their short-term political agenda as Liberals are.

    I believe that. I believe it is a deep weakness of American politics, across the board.

    It’s a universal tendency. Being relatively powerful and insulated from consequences just enables one to persist with it longer before world view has to adjust to reality.

    • #67
  8. user_645 Editor
    user_645
    @Claire

    AIG: From my own limited experience (having been born in a communist country)…people don’t fall for propaganda. It’s usually really bad and transparent. People simply chose to accept it because it already fits their world view.

    This isn’t my business, and feel free politely to ignore the question, but that limited experience is interesting. Would you at all feel like writing about it? I’d love to see a post about which country you were born in, what the propaganda was like, why it seemed bad and transparent, and especially, the process by which it seemed to be chosen by people because it fit their world view.

    I’d also like to know how old you were when you moved to (what I assume is) the US, and what the US media looked like by comparison. That would be helpful to me in trying to answer questions I’m groping at independently–and no, I don’t have the answers, I only have the questions. If you were willing to talk about this, I’d ask the questions upfront. I don’t want to be mysterious about this, so I’ll put the general question, basically, this way:

    I spent a decade, roughly, in Turkey, where a large part of the media is pure, transparent, ridiculous propaganda, and where many people think crazy things about the US. I found that many people would change their minds if I simply said to them, “No, that’s not true, this is how it works.”

    I could not understand why I was on my own in this. I didn’t understand why the US didn’t simply correct the record on lies. I didn’t want my government to do counter-propaganda; I just wanted it to offer basic, truthful information, so that at least it was out there if people wanted it–in a language they could read.

    I’ll stick with that classic example: no, we didn’t kill the OWS protesters. Sure, of course people in Turkey were willing to believe we did–their experience of “government,” since birth, was, “It kills protesters.”

    But I found–personally–a ton of people who a) didn’t think it should be that way; b) were willing to believe it was not that way in the US; and c) would have liked the US to say, “We are firmly against shooting protesters.”

    That we said no such thing implicitly reinforced the view of people who were saying “it’s this way in the US, too.” I thought that was disastrous–especially because again, most people there assumed that if our government had anything good to say about itself, it would say so–just like theirs does. So many took the silence as a sign that we had nothing good to say about ourselves and probably supported shooting them.

    This happened while the Turkish government was killing protesters in my neighborhood. I just don’t understand why I was the one saying, “No, that’s not how we deal with protestors back home.” The US Embassy was absolutely silent. This does not seem sensible to me. We lost the sympathy of a large part of that generation with our silence, when all we had to do is be honest. Not propagandize, not give them weapons: just say, simply, something that is entirely true:

    “In the US, we do not kill people who are protesting an urban planning decision. Now, here’s a factual history of what we have and haven’t done. What you’ve heard about Kent State was true. That was considered a terrible national tragedy. It was such an unusual event that it genuinely changed our history. Here’s where you can read more about that. Here’s where you can read more about the way every other protest has happened in the US, which is to say, not at all like that. The way protesters are being treated in the heart of Istanbul, now, here, in Turkey, would be unthinkable in the US–in fact, in the US, we don’t usually have protests like this about urban planning at all, because people generally feel that they have many effective ways to be involved in local urban planning decisions, and the frustration wouldn’t build to this point in the first place. Here’s where you can learn about urban planning decisions and how they’re made at the local level in America.

    “Americans would be appalled by scenes like this and find it very abnormal. We’d let those kids protest without thinking twice about it, and we certainly wouldn’t arrest people for Tweeting about it. Here’s where you can read more about our constitution. Here’s where you can find accurate numbers about how many OWS protesters we shot. While we don’t track them, you can look yourself for people who insult our President on Twitter–that’s pretty much all Americans, actually–and write to them. Ask if they’ve been arrested. Here’s how you’d ask in English.”

    If after that, they still believe whatever they want to believe, fine–but why not at least give them a hint of a reality that young people might be curious about? And toward which they would feel positive if they believed it was true?

    • #68
  9. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @BallDiamondBall

    Claire Berlinski:

    I spent a decade, roughly, in Turkey, where a large part of the media is pure, transparent, ridiculous propaganda, and where many people think crazy things about the US. I found that many people would change their minds if I simply said to them, “No, that’s not true, this is how it works.”

    I’ve spent a good deal of time in Japan.  Trying to convince people of things is fruitless in my experience.  Yes, you can explain, and make a bulletproof case, and point to sources, and they are surprised and enlightened, grateful and delighted.  They tell you that now they see.  And then they don’t.

    This sort of intransigence is a mixed blessing.  As everybody is expected to hate the US around the world or be thought of as a stooge, most people will say they hate the US (or something not far from it) in public, but you get a different, shall we say, nuance at the dinner table.  The downside is that candid discussions about what the facts are tend to be entertaining for a while but not actually important.  I do not think the Japanese are peculiar in flowing past points and arguments like the unchanged stream in some famous example.  I just think they are better at it than many.

    I was stunned to hear casual, toss-off statements about how “the Jews run X” as if it were simply a fact, and how stupid was I not to know it?  I began lacing my conversation with jump-off points, invitations for somebody to respond with such a comment, and soon stopped, as it was too depressing.  It was too consistent.  It’s not everybody of course — most seem to have no opinion one way or another, but in the background, they just have this sense the Jews are some sort of conspiratorial people with no bearing at all on Japan, so who cares?  In Japan it seems the only people who have any use for Jews at all is the kook bunch who say that the Japanese are a lost tribe.  Naturally, they hold themselves up as the superior Jew.

    I would not be surprised if the people whose minds you changed had reverted to form within hours.  I don’t say they are lying.  Just that a comfortable state of mind is a resilient thing — more resilient than facts are stubborn.

    • #69
  10. user_645 Editor
    user_645
    @Claire

    Ball Diamond Ball:”

    I would not be surprised if the people whose minds you changed had reverted to form within hours. I don’t say they are lying. Just that a comfortable state of mind is a resilient thing — more resilient than facts are stubborn.

    Sure. That’s why I thought it was a shame that their only exposure to these facts was a single random encounter with me.

    And that’s why I was told, “If you want to do something to help this country, forget about journalism–Americans’ minds are made up, no matter what you say. Go teach at one of our universities.”

    But there are situations when people aren’t in a comfortable state of mind at all–as in, “The cops are killing people right in front of me and filling the local hospital wards. Our own media is saying we’re terrorists. But … we’re kids who were doing yoga to protest the destruction of a park we like. And now the prime minister is saying that what he did to us is what Americans would do, too.”

    That’s when it might really change someone’s mind if someone much, much more powerful than me said something to the effect of, “No, that’s not what Americans would do.”

    We didn’t need to send them weapons, drown them in our own version of Sputnik, or really get involved in any way–save to say, “No, that’s not what Americans would do.”

    And it isn’t.

    But we didn’t say it.

    • #70
  11. Ricochet Contributor
    Ricochet
    @TitusTechera

    A few thoughts on the way you look at Russia as America’s problem. Americans do need to know & care more. Maybe they call their Senator. Or someone with influence screams loudly on TV. Or people think some politician is serious about foreign policy… Whatever happens, what policy or politician can succeed without popular support? Do Americans even care about Russia? (As for Putin’s unpopularity: Cannot Americans dislike him without caring one whit?)

    People do need to mistrust gov’t, especially on foreign policy. What success has America had since the ill-timed end of the Cold War? A sort of jealousy is necessary for people to acquire & maintain a sense of ownership over foreign policy.

    How much people know is secondary. I’m not judging your quiz. I’ve not thought over the ideal quiz, so, for all I know, as cris go, this is about as dernier as it gets, so to speak. The primary matter is, do people get the basics right?

    So it’s war or go home. Americans unwilling to fight WW3 – all Americans, or very nearly? – may prove unwilling to fight a serious local war, or a small war, or to risk even a small war, so long as it involves Russia. People seem to think Putin is fearsome without thinking they themselves are or will become similarly fearsome. This is not about the balance of power – it’s about the balance of fear. You need imperial bearing to look into these problems: Since you cannot predict the future, you need to know in advance what you want to do. That’s thinking about ugly things. But it is easily avoided: Who think wars are over, not won, probably should not start war.

    • #71
  12. user_645 Editor
    user_645
    @Claire

    Titus Techera: what policy or politician can succeed without popular support?

    None, I think. Nor should it, long term. The idea behind American governance is that we don’t do it by daily polling–of course not–but we ultimately have a government of the people, for the people, and by the people.

    Do Americans even care about Russia? (As for Putin’s unpopularity: Cannot Americans dislike him without caring one whit?)

    I don’t think “caring” is the key. I think that’s secondary to “knowing,” and “having a reasonable, general grasp on reality.”

    People do need to mistrust gov’t, especially on foreign policy.

    I’d say, “It is even more important to mistrust the government on foreign policy than on domestic policy, because the consequences of foreign policy mistakes are so much more grave.” Mistrusting it doesn’t mean “hating it and thinking it’s wrong,” it means, “assuming it could be, which is why we put many systems in place to allow us to control it.”

    What success has America had since the ill-timed end of the Cold War?

    Several. Getting Russia out of Eastern and Central Europe was huge. And since the invention of the Bomb, I think we can consider any year in which one didn’t go off–anywhere in the world–a reasonable success, but I think it’s quite a mistake to assume that’s just a natural state of affairs and could never happen. I don’t think the “end of the Cold War” was ill-timed: I think many people were liberated. But I do think it was quite a mistake to think, “Well, thank goodness, we won the world and never have to think about it again,” which is, I fear, a message a few too many–certainly not all–took from it.

    A sort of jealousy is necessary for people to acquire & maintain a sense of ownership over foreign policy.

    How much people know is secondary. I’m not judging your quiz. I’ve not thought over the ideal quiz, so, for all I know, as cris go, this is about as dernier as it gets, so to speak. The primary matter is, do people get the basics right?

    I don’t know. My sense of things from abroad–one woman’s sense, not a properly conducted poll–is that Americans tend to be surprised by things they should have seen coming a long time ago. But I think it would be a methodological error par excellence to confuse “my sense of things” with “reality.” I do spot things that freak me out, though–for example, that Gülen op-ed in the New York Times. The conclusion I drew from that may or may not be correct; my instinctive conclusion was, “Americans are not paying enough attention: If they were, that would have looked very, very wrong to them. They’re not getting the basics right.”

    So it’s war or go home. Americans unwilling to fight WW3 – all Americans, or very nearly? – may prove unwilling to fight a serious local war, or a small war, or to risk even a small war, so long as it involves Russia.

    Thing is–of course we don’t want to fight WW3. We did already. The Cold War was WW3. The question is how we fight WW4, which we are, in fact fighting, and has many aspects in common with 1,2, and 3, as well as many dissimilar aspects. Do we have any idea that we’re fighting it? Are we deciding, in some rational and democratic way, how we want to fight it? Are we talking rationally about the consequences of mistakes or the outcomes we want? Are we communicating these clearly to ourselves or the world?

    People seem to think Putin is fearsome without thinking they themselves are or will become similarly fearsome.

    He is fearsome, and so are we. My question–and it’s a question, I do not know the answer–is whether we’re generally aware of that and able to formulate some kind of rational policy response. Not a hysterical one, because the evidence so far is that America works as designed and survives one war after the other, but one that takes seriously the thought that this might not continue to happen.

    This is not about the balance of power – it’s about the balance of fear. You need imperial bearing to look into these problems: Since you cannot predict the future, you need to know in advance what you want to do. That’s thinking about ugly things. But it is easily avoided: Who think wars are over, not won, probably should not start war.

    I don’t think the war is over or won, and think Putin started the latest round. Now what?

    • #72
  13. Xennady Member
    Xennady
    @

    AIG:I’d say here you demonstrate that you have no idea what you’re talking about.

    1) The Bukres are all ships build in the 1990s and 2000s. With planned construction to go on for several more years. They are the most cutting edge ships in the world.

    2) You don’t understand the difference between a Ticonderoga class and a Spruance class. Hint: one is an ASW platform the other is an anti-air cruiser.

    3) 30 years ago, in 1985, the mainstay of the USN were the Belknap, Leahy and Virginia class cruisers; the Spruance, Adams and Farragut class destroyers; the Knox, Brooke, Garcia and Perry class frigates.

    You may very well not see a difference between those platforms and technologies that were the mainstay 30 years ago…and the Burke class of today. But that perhaps means you shouldn’t be talking about it, then.

    4) How long do you think is the lifespan of a typical Burke class destroyer? Can you tell me how many new ships the USN has build in the last, 10 years, and how many are building, and how many are planned?

    I won’t hold my breath for an answer.

    Pretty much everything you’ve said here is fantasy and doesn’t correspond to reality. That’s all I got to say about that.

    Precious little of what you wrote actually had anything to do with my comment.

    Let me try again.

    “A guided missile destroyer today is multiple times more powerful than a cruiser was, 30 years ago.”

    Well, nope. As I noted the distinction between a cruiser and a destroyer is rather blurry, which is why I noted that the CG-47 class cruisers were based on the hull of the DD-963 design. Plus, I seem to recall that Norman Friedman wrote that actual USN cruiser development ended with the Long Beach, noting that true cruisers had a dual firemain loop, but whatever.

    Let’s discuss the various weapons of Uncle Sugar’s Canoe Club, focusing on weapons carried by the various surface ships we’ve referenced. Surface to air missiles- this. Note that it first entered service in 1967. Now we have this, but it’s intended for use against ballistic missiles, not ships. Anti-ship missile: this. First deployed in 1977. Five inch guns too, but the Mk 45 mount first entered service in 1971 and the extended range gun munition was cancelled in 2008. Thus, I doubt it was magically better than the Mk 42 or Mk 38 mounts.

    I could go on, but my point is that the weapons used by ships circa 1985 are quite similar to weapons used today. Better, yes, not not so magical that the loss of hundreds of ships can overcome the difference.

    More about the USN shipbuilding plans here, which took me seconds on google. About the Chinese navy, which inspired my original comment: here. More specifically, this.

    My point here is that your faith that China is no threat, because of the magical new navy ships we have, is silly. Quantity has a quality all its own, to quote Mao, and the US is on track to soon have neither quantity nor quality, because the country is governed by people who believe what you believe. That is, that we live in the best of all possible worlds, and nothing bad could ever happen to us.

    Pitiful- and dangerous, for us at least.

    • #73
  14. user_645 Editor
    user_645
    @Claire

    Zafar:It’s a universal tendency. Being relatively powerful and insulated from consequences just enables one to persist with it longer before world view has to adjust to reality.

    It’s reality to say, “Americans are relatively powerful and insulated from the consequences of living in fantasies.”

    The rest of the world looks pretty worried about this, to me–or eager to take advantage of it. But I reckon that in any part of the world in which the Cold War was a hot war, talk of starting World War III does not reassure: It says, “Americans fought three world wars, forgot the third, and are now saying, “Come on, trust us, don’t worry, we’re in excellent touch with reality.”

    • #74
  15. St. Salieri Member
    St. Salieri
    @

    Serious questions:

    I am going to leave behind questions of epistemology.  How do we shape a national foreign policy given the political, cultural, and moral/philosophical divides in this country, that can

    1. Survive intact across multiple election cycles

    2. Is not undermined by the vagaries of domestic political needs between cycles

    3. Is not swamped by the Left

    4. Does not become morally repugnant to a people who claim to desire freedom

    5. Does not become an amoral or free floating detached end in itself with no anchor

    6.  And more importantly, what could such a policy look like – if it was too bridge enough aisles to survive?

    7.  Could it survive without becoming almost a parody of a coherent policy?

    In the Cold War one had a powerful ideological, economic, political, and philosophical and moral center to be opposed in international Communism, that allowed a national foreign policy consensus to be built around, (with the variations of the local outworkings of Communist power, issues of domestic politics notwithstanding and all the difficulties that went with it), today, even if we simplify and say, Russia, China, Iran, ISIS, which have interesting points of overlap, it seems we are dealing with the multifaceted / hydra-like chain of issues.  When we face them today as versus say 1965, some of these seem to lack the links which are deeply interconnected (at least in their political working out), others of which are not, but without the clarity of the Cold War can you build the sort of foreign policy necessary to survive internal American domestic divides?  Consider as a nation the the first half of the Cold War was the height of domestic consensus politics (which in terms of our nation’s long term adherence to a liberty based Republicanism was likely unhealthy), and one wonders if the mix of forces that created or allowed that consensus were unique: the unity and victory at the end of WWII and the Cold War really did create that consensus, as well as the generation who came of age under FDR failing to question the premise of the welfare state married to the end of 19th century manifest destiny and the last generation to truly prefer and champion Western Civilization, created a heady mix of shared national goals that soon fell apart.  So contra such an era, which now seems abnormal in the life of our own nation, besides nations and personalities, what is the unifying element that allows the average politician and voter to see what is there in a way that can be translated into meaningful support for a national policy (whatever it might look like) today, and how could it be sustained?

    Contra AIG – perhaps, and I’m intrigued by his thinking, but not ultimately convinced – the Bush era mistakes were an attempt to see that coherent existential threat in Islamism – in order to build a long-term, if Wilsonian policy – contra it, when that threat was not truly there…and yet…

    Looking at the shootings in Denmark it is there, but is it chained to other issues in various ways, which can’t be untangled unless one forces a simplification on the situation in order to impose rationality?

    If we view Russia via Putin as the source of much of this, don’t we have an example of policy divorced from its ideological origins surviving afterwards and having in a sense learned from it’s mistakes and consolidating its successes (don’t advertise yourself)?

    I hope I’m making sense, because I’m genuinely concerned and desirous of having a national policy that effects change for the good, at least in my children’s life-time if not mine, even if it means expending blood and treasure.

    Although as one man with one vote living as far outside the corridors of influence and power as seemingly possible, is my concern even rational, even if rooted in my sense of responsibility as a citizen of this Republic.

    • #75
  16. St. Salieri Member
    St. Salieri
    @

    OK, so I never really left behind episti-what’s it…

    Sorry for the long rambles.

    • #76
  17. Xennady Member
    Xennady
    @

    Claire Berlinski:It is not an incipient tyranny. It’s a massively over-regulated bureaucracy, and the single currency has proven a mess. But it’s not a tyranny, nor will it be. Using the word “tyranny” to describe it leaves us without a suitable vocabulary to describe real tyrannies.

    In the case of local politics, I agree, and will speak locally. Marine LePen is my local Putin stooge. Not merely that–she’s that and more!–but that is, really, the most interesting thing about her. So I find Americans who are thrilled about her perplexing: what do they think she stands for? I have the feeling she’s managed to persuade many Americans that she’s in favor of something they really believe–but what?

    If you don’t want to describe a massively over-regulated bureaucracy with a ruinous single currency as an incipient tyranny,  no problem. Your mileage may vary, as the saying goes- but it looks like incipient tyranny to me.

    And about LePen- I’ll freely admit I know precious little about her. But I don’t need to, really. French, I am not. I have absolutely no doubt that my opinions about European politics seem every bit as silly to real live Europeans as the endless European opinions about American politics that the leftist-dominated American political class expects me to take seriously.

    That said, I do in fact have opinions about French politics- and about the EU in general.

    I recall what Kissinger wrote in one of his books- Diplomacy, I think- about France and the innumerable German states of circa 1630-ish. That is, France meddled in the affairs of Germany to avoid the creation of a centralized German state that would be able to do to France what Germany eventually did do to France, after 1870. I note that the EU has more people and a larger economy than the US, but lacks American unity.

    It seems to me that the EU seeks to be a peer-competitor to the United States, economically and militarily. I object. I love Europe so much that I want there to be not just two- as someone once said about Germany-but dozens.

    Back to LePen- she’s trouble for the EU-friendly French establishment- as far as I’ve bothered to discern- and thus appears to be the enemy of my enemy.

    In other words, my friend. Go LePen go.

    • #77
  18. iWc Coolidge
    iWc
    @iWe

    Ball Diamond Ball:I was stunned to hear casual, toss-off statements about how “the Jews run X” as if it were simply a fact, and how stupid was I not to know it? I began lacing my conversation with jump-off points, invitations for somebody to respond with such a comment, and soon stopped, as it was too depressing. It was too consistent. It’s not everybody of course — most seem to have no opinion one way or another, but in the background, they just have this sense the Jews are some sort of conspiratorial people

    I was just writing about Japanese anti-semitism.

    • #78
  19. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @BallDiamondBall

    St. Salieri:Serious questions:

    I am going to leave behind questions of epistemology. How do we shape a national foreign policy given the political, cultural, and moral/philosophical divides in this country, that can

    1. Survive intact across multiple election cycles

    2. Is not undermined by the vagaries of domestic political needs between cycles

    3. Is not swamped by the Left

    4. Does not become morally repugnant to a people who claim to desire freedom

    This is where I’m stuck.  Been stuck here for a while.

    • #79
  20. user_645 Editor
    user_645
    @Claire

    AIG:

    Strange how oil prices seem to collapse every-time Russian invades a country. Purse coincidence, I’m sure.

    Your theory is that we control OPEC. And you may be right. Because it is absolutely, historically true that we got in bed with those disgusting, head-chopping, Wahhibi freaks in the first place because of their known willingness to be “moderate” in OPEC. That’s not a conspiracy theory, just a matter of historic record.

    So who knows how this really happens, although I have no idea why we feel the need to fawn over them, too. 

    But let’s keep the conversation firmly in reality. And keep thinking a few steps ahead. I wonder how much control we really have over our disgusting, head-chopping friends? A serious discussion of national security has to involve the question–if this is how we do it, is this a national security triumph? Heck, they’re just the world’s most powerful Wahhabi freaks, and no one will ever take their ideology seriously, right? That one’s never going to come home to roost.

    So let’s have an adult conversation. We know there’s a touch of Wahhabism at loose in the world. We also know where it comes from. Or if we don’t, I’ll be happy to tell you.

    If our national security strategy truly still relies on the Saudis, it should not. If anyone thinks they’re really our friends, I don’t know what it would take to wake them up. If anyone thinks we can now independently make the price of oil go up and down without them, I’d like to understand the mechanism by which this happens. I very much hope this is so, but I couldn’t sleep at night without that hope.

    • #80
  21. user_645 Editor
    user_645
    @Claire

    Xennady:

    Back to LePen- she’s trouble for the EU-friendly French establishment- as far as I’ve bothered to discern- and thus appears to be the enemy of my enemy.

    I refer you to my earlier comments about playing the Saudis against the Russians.

    • #81
  22. user_645 Editor
    user_645
    @Claire

    liberal jim: – sleeping beauty it is about time the prince kissed you.

    Well, my passport says I’m American, so I figure that means: I fix problems, rather than wallowing in cynical despair. I allow myself to do that for an hour or so every morning, to get it out of my system. I also recommend brisk exercise.

    • #82
  23. user_494971 Contributor
    user_494971
    @HankRhody

    iWc:

    Ball Diamond Ball:I was stunned to hear casual, toss-off statements about how “the Jews run X” as if it were simply a fact, and how stupid was I not to know it? I began lacing my conversation with jump-off points, invitations for somebody to respond with such a comment, and soon stopped, as it was too depressing. It was too consistent. It’s not everybody of course — most seem to have no opinion one way or another, but in the background, they just have this sense the Jews are some sort of conspiratorial people

    I was just writing about Japanese anti-semitism.

    For a brief while I joked about the Jews running everything. Then I met people who actually believed it. Joke wasn’t as funny anymore.

    • #83
  24. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Claire Berlinski:

    Zafar:It’s a universal tendency. Being relatively powerful and insulated from consequences just enables one to persist with it longer before world view has to adjust to reality.

    It’s reality to say, “Americans are relatively powerful and insulated from the consequences of living in fantasies.”

    The rest of the world looks pretty worried about this, to me–or eager to take advantage of it. But I reckon that in any part of the world in which the Cold War was a hot war, talk of starting World War III does not reassure: It says, “Americans fought three world wars, forgot the third, and are now saying, “Come on, trust us, don’t worry, we’re in excellent touch with reality.”

    All arguably true.  Not to minimise the issue, but Americans aren’t being uniquely feckless, they’re just being human.  And so are America’s allies and America’s enemies.

    What I’m trying to say is that, one way or another, it has happened before – although perhaps not quite to this extent. It may never have been resolved without a bump, yet, but this means history is both applicable and can in theory be learned from.  America is exceptional, imho, but that doesn’t mean that it is always different.

    • #84
  25. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    St. Salieri:Looking at the shootings in Denmark it is there, but is it chained to other issues in various ways, which can’t be untangled unless one forces a simplification on the situation in order to impose rationality?

    Our instinct as a species is to assign meaning and make order out of chaos.  A basically excellent tendency – and what makes us human – but it serves us ill when we give in to temptation and try to fit reality to a theory/belief in which we’re invested, rather than the other way round.

    A Manichean (?) religious/cultural instinct, for example, is problematic when it shapes foreign policy (armies of light vs forces of darkness) or domestic politics (“Us” vs “Evil Doers”) in a shades of grey world where even the best are human and sometimes mistaken. jmho.

    • #85
  26. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @BalticSnowTiger

    Claire Berlinski:

    Titus Techera: what policy or politician can succeed without popular support?

    ….

    What success has America had since the ill-timed end of the Cold War?

    Several. Getting Russia out of Eastern and Central Europe was huge. And since the invention of the Bomb, I think we can consider any year in which one didn’t go off–anywhere in the world–a reasonable success, but I think it’s quite a mistake to assume that’s just a natural state of affairs and could never happen. I don’t think the “end of the Cold War” was ill-timed: I think many people were liberated.

    Thing is–of course we don’t want to fight WW3. We did already. The Cold War was WW3. The question is how we fight WW4, which we are, in fact fighting, and has many aspects in common with 1,2, and 3, as well as many dissimilar aspects. Do we have any idea that we’re fighting it? Are we deciding, in some rational and democratic way, how we want to fight it? Are we talking rationally about the consequences of mistakes or the outcomes we want? Are we communicating these clearly to ourselves or the world?

    People seem to think Putin is fearsome without thinking they themselves are or will become similarly fearsome.

    He is fearsome, and so are we. My question–and it’s a question, I do not know the answer–is whether we’re generally aware of that and able to formulate some kind of rational policy response. Not a hysterical one, because the evidence so far is that America works as designed and survives one war after the other, but one that takes seriously the thought that this might not continue to happen.

    This is not about the balance of power – it’s about the balance of fear. You need imperial bearing to look into these problems: Since you cannot predict the future, you need to know in advance what you want to do. That’s thinking about ugly things. But it is easily avoided: Who think wars are over, not won, probably should not start war.

    I don’t think the war is over or won, and think Putin started the latest round. Now what?

    Let’s start with :

    I don’t think the “end of the Cold War” was ill-timed: I think many people were liberated.

    Seconded. That is the key. The end of the cold war actually came far too late for many in occupied Europe. Still in the late 1980s people were incarcerated, tortured, left to starve and hunger in prisons and camps (yes, there were and in Russia still are Gulags). Families not just in Poland could not buy enough food, the quality of basic food components from vegetables to especially meat and milk if sold was often abysmal. It was a climate of fear, disdain, dictatorship, lies, and decrepitness. Unless you were lucky enough to have a garden patch somewhere to supplement home cooking matters were hard. Central and Eastern Europe   are now free. We have to keep them free as they are not strong enough to defend themselves alone or collectively, yet.

    Let us remind ourselves: after spineless ‘realpolitik’ Western politicians seriously left it, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania and its people to remain occupied after the end of WWII, to be deported, starve, die and the land to be russified,  close to 50,000 men, the Forest Brothers, went into the forests of Estonia and in parts of Latvia and Lithuania to resist the slaughtering, raping, pillaging and deporting Red Army  and Soviet military administration. Some support came from  Sweden, Britain and the U.S. but it spiralled downwards into the 1960s. The last of the Forest Brothers in hiding were caught and subsequently imprisoned or killed between 1973 and 1978.

    If anyone even thinks for one second that freedom in Europe is not worth fighting for, supporting it and it will not be fought for even in a conventional scenario, remember and think again.

    More later.

    • #86
  27. iWc Coolidge
    iWc
    @iWe

    Hank Rhody: For a brief while I joked about the Jews running everything. Then I met people who actually believed it. Joke wasn’t as funny anymore.

    I used to do the very same thing.

    • #87
  28. user_645 Editor
    user_645
    @Claire

    iWc:

    Claire Berlinski:That’s a much more serious response, isn’t it? Not perfect, obviously, but serious.

    I don’t know French, but I would suggest that at this point, France needs people who really, really care about France. People who are willing, in extremis, to risk their lives. This is not “serious” or “adult”. It is about passion.

    Is the UMP comprised of those people?

    I am absolutely certain that everyone in France cares about France. I am not remotely worried that France doesn’t care about France. Your concern here should not be whether France cares about France. We may safely assume that most countries care very much about themselves, usually. Only Americans care so little about themselves that they’d eagerly jump aboard the train of the most anti-American political movement in France. I mean–the National Front?

    Look, here’s a common sense American foreign policy heuristic: No huge sophistication or knowledge of foreign countries needed. Don’t overthink it. Assume people like themselves. Start with the question: Do they like us? The National Front does not love America. There are two mainstream parties here, both of which like America well enough. There are hard problems in foreign policy, but this isn’t one of them.

    • #88
  29. iWc Coolidge
    iWc
    @iWe

    BalticSnowTiger: Central and Eastern Europe are now free. We have to keep them free as they are not strong enough to defend themselves alone or collectively, yet.

    I actually agree with you on this, sort of. The US has good reason to fight to save Estonia or the Czech Republic from the Russians.

    But in part, this is because those countries are not welfare magnets who attracted vast numbers of Islamic welfare recipients and potential terrorists. Baselined from today, the Czech Republic is quite likely to have a better future than will France or Sweden.

    It helps that these countries are still in flux, and are more pro-US than are their more sclerotic Western neighbors.

    • #89
  30. iWc Coolidge
    iWc
    @iWe

    Claire Berlinski: I am absolutely certain that everyone in France cares about France. I am not remotely worried that France doesn’t care about France. Your concern here should not be whether France cares about France. We may safely assume that most countries care very much about themselves, usually.

    Claire, I tend to think that Mark Steyn has it right: a country that ceases to procreate is a country that has lost its civilizational confidence.

    French people today no longer invest in the future of France. So while I can see that they enjoy cheese and fresh baguettes in the morning, and normal atheistic narcissistic hedonist pleasures, I do NOT see that people in France actually care about France.

    People who do not choose to have kids are people who value the present over the future. A nation that does not have kids is a nation without a future.

    • #90
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